I had done about 170 dives in a wetsuit before I got a shell drysuit and started diving with it. For the most part, it is easy to adjust so that you're able to maintain control in the water. Trickier is getting the right amount of insulation, weighting, and trim. I'm going to try to catalogue that process on this page, with my experiences and the resulting feedback from others.
I bought my drysuit from Peter Den Haan, a rep for Mobby's in Ventura. A friend suggest it would be good to drive down and get an impromtu lesson on a day boat trip there, but my schedule didn't allow for it. So a month ago, I have a box of a suit and it's: what now?
Should you take a dry suit class?
I'm leaning to ' probably not.' If you haven't gotten a suit, then there is value in getting to [hopefully] see several different suit types and to hear about the different choices out there for you. I think that for Monterey diving, a case can be made for any of the three common types: trilam, neoprene, and crushed/compressed neoprene. If you want to rent a suit, you may need to do a training session. My friends Eben and Vickie did an evening session that did pool work and covered the basics. That ran $50. For another fifty you got two ocean dives with the instructor. This is pretty reasonable, particularly if you live near Penisula Dive Center in Mountain View.
Nonetheless, I found that a pool session by itself was all the prep I needed. Doug of PenDive let me use him pool one evening and I found it was a pretty easy adjustment, though with nothing on besides a swim suit (heated pool) it didn't take much on the weightbelt. I did find that as anticipated, my fins (large imprex) was not going to fit, so I got a pair of XL Jetfins. If I had run into trouble, then I would have opted for a training session, but it went pretty smoothly. This is one of those cases where good relations with local shops (as opposed to buying from Leisure Pro) pays dividends.
What type of drysuit should you get?
I have included here an article that Art Greenberg posted on rec.scuba that gives the short answer on the question. The longer answer would be to try some out both in the pool and the ocean if possible. Different shops rent different types, so call around.
Buoyancy - do you use the suit or the BC?
If you've followed this subject in any sort of forum, be it rec.scuba, or the printed books on dry suit diving, you have discovered that a lot of reliable people are on both sides of this question. The only conclusion I can draw is that you have to think about it and try a bit of each, if it is safely possible for you. The notes below refer most directly to shell suits.
Pro's for dry suit inflation only:
- only one bag of air to keep track of, safer
- on ascent, suit will autodeflate, no accelaration like with BCs
- when properly weighted, a suit inflated enough to stop squeeze is all you need anyway, plus the 5-7 pounds for the full tank of air
Con's for dry suit inflation only:
- the more air in the suit, greater chance of runaway ascent if you get stuck in a feet up position, more dangerous (see Pro #1!)
- the more air in the suit, the bigger a moving bubble if you shift your orientation in the water column. Air in the BC stays put. This is especially true is overweighted.
- if you're carrying multiple tanks, buoyancy needs are high for a suit to cover by itself.
Nearly all agree that you should be wearing a BC. If your shell suit were to have a total failure at one of the seals, you would be negatively buoyant, potentially even wthout your weight belt. The BC is also a better choice while moving along on the surface.
Trip by Trip results
What follows are the trip reports I write up of each new foray out with the dry suit. I'll also put in excerps of the responses I get (but that will take a bit longer). In these I'm going to describe the various trials I make, and the results. While some have thought that all this 'trouble' indicates I am in sore need of instruction, I disagree. I think these are good things to work out by myself.
Dive 1 at the Breakwater.
Dive 2 at Gerstle Cove.
Dives 3-5 on the Cypress Point.
Dives 6-7 at South Monastery.
BA_diving opinions on the discussion.
Emailed opinions that I received.
Last Edited: May 25, 1999